UI-Washington: 4 keys

UI-Washington: 4 keys

Beat writer Matt Daniels’ four keys for Illinois today:

1 Simon says. Not Nathan Scheelhaase. Not Martize Barr. Not Donovonn Young. Simon Cvijanovic was named Illinois’ offensive MVP by the team after last Saturday’s 45-17 victory against Cincinnati. “He played four quarters of football,” Illinois coach Tim Beckman said. “He protected the blind side of a right-handed quarterback. What we saw is he really played a complete game.” Illinois would like to see another superb effort from Cvijanovic against a Washington defensive line that will get after Scheelhaase. The play of Cvijanovic, along with the return of Ted Karras at right guard, was a main reason Illinois did not give up any sacks against Cincinnati and displayed a well-balanced offense. “The sky’s the limit with that kid (because he’s) so athletic and so much potential,” right tackle Corey Lewis said. “It was just really good to see him finish his blocks and do his job. I saw Simon come in, and from a kid who struggled as a redshirt freshman to just being where he is now, I’m so happy for him.”

2 Plenty in reserve. Tim Kynard and Houston Bates were able to rattle Cincinnati’s offense a bit with their pressure off the end. Defensive tackles Jake Howe and Austin Teitsma played solid in clogging up the middle. Also noteworthy was how reserves like Teko Powell, Kenny Nelson, Robbie Bain, DeJazz Woods, Abe Cajuste, Dawuane Smoot and Jarrod Clements lined up at critical times for Illinois. “Their effort is awesome,” Bates said. “They play hard every snap and take advantage of the snaps they do get. If we need a blow, they’re coming in, and they’re just as fresh as we are to start the game.” Which will come in handy against Washington. The Huskies won’t huddle and will want to get plays off as fast as they can. “Everyone’s going to have to have a role and be ready to play, particularly up front because that’s where you obviously need to create your pass rush,” Illinois defensive coordinator Tim Banks said. “If those guys get tired, that’s not real good for us. We’re going to have to play a lot of guys to keep up.”

3 Pace setters. The Louisiana Tech debacle a year ago probably gives Illinois coaches and players chills when they think about it. Consider Washington the 2.0 version of the fast-paced offense the Bulldogs ran to perfection during their 52-24 victory against the Illini. The Huskies will aim to have the ball in quarterback Keith Price’s hands almost as soon as they can for the next play after the previous one ends. “They’re playing at a breakneck tempo and playing a lot of guys,” Banks said. “They’re athletic, really fast and play at a great tempo.” Banks harped to players like Jonathan Brown, Earnest Thomas and Mason Monheim, who all saw significant time against Louisiana Tech, to expect more of the same from Washington. “You can tell them, ‘Hey, it will be this speed,’ and they know what you’re talking about,” Banks said. “The young guys weren’t part of that, so it’ll be a learning experience for them, but hopefully the veterans can convince them that when we say they’re going fast, they’ll be going fast.” Brown is confident the experience last year will benefit Illinois. “Louisiana Tech was a tough game,” he said. “I see the pace Washington tries to establish, and it’s pretty fast, but we work on it each day in practice. I think we’re ready for it.”

4 Grass game. This is Illinois’ first game on the natural grass surface. And only one of three Illinois will have all season (at Penn State on Nov. 2 and at Purdue on Nov. 23 are the two others). Illinois practiced all week on its grass practice field, which sits next to Memorial Stadium. Illinois usually has practiced in Memorial Stadium before its first two games this season. “We have worked a lot this year on our grass practice fields,” Beckman said, “so I don’t think it will be that much of a factor.” Tight end Evan Wilson indicated he’s not a big fan of the grass. “It gives me shin splints, so my legs are going to be hurting, but other than that, I really just see it as a field,” Wilson said. “It’s not really anything too different for me.” Beckman said he’ll leave it up to his players if they want to wear different cleats than what they do when they play on turf. “Whatever the kids are comfortable with,” he said. “I think because we practiced on grass in Rantoul and (on campus), that we’re getting used to whatever they feel comfortable in.”


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